I, too, have been away from my usual haunts, exploring and being explored in this strange, new, medical world, and I hope, like the coyote to soon be home to a niche more natural and comfortable for me. And it is true that we each embody domestic and wild, and it is fun to see what's happening on the other side, so we can merge the two.
It's Hard to Be a Coyote in the City
Published: March 24, 2006 in the New York Times.
It's one thing to see a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting on a precipice overlooking Central Park. There's not much question how they got there, after all. But it's another thing to see a coyote in Central Park, like the one that was pursued and finally captured earlier this week. That coyote helps us re-imagine the city's boundaries. How would a coyote slip into Manhattan? Suddenly you get a glimpse of how constricted our own access to the island is — funneled across bridges and through tunnels. And yet, for all we know, it may be easier for a coyote to enter Manhattan now than it was when there were no bridges or tunnels and visiting Manhattan meant a long swim.
But however it got here, that coyote was suddenly reframed by Central Park, its wildness set apart by the domesticity of everything around it. We don't really think of the squirrels in the park as wild, though they are. The same goes for robins and starlings and swallows. They have been absorbed into our everyday landscape. What that coyote carried with him — what people saw when they looked at him, that is — was the feel of the places where we expect to see coyotes. It was as unexpected as seeing Woody Allen on the Arctic tundra.
The coyote in the park wasn't quite as dramatic as the whale that swam up the Thames through the heart of London in January. Only a few New Yorkers saw him on the loose.
But what makes such occasions remarkable isn't just the sight of a coyote or a northern bottlenosed whale. It's the fact that such animals appear among us on their own, as if we were the creatures in captivity and they were the ones taking a gander. Even these places were wild once, their sudden presence seems to say.